Get your medals out

AFTER the outstanding beauty of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, I had an online debate with my old friend and former CNJ-er Joel Taylor about how you should expect and demand that kind of quality if you are going to spend £30 million on a show.

He said I’d be surprised how easily it is to spend all of that money and turn out a mess – and he was proven right by the embarrassment of the closing ceremony last night, the kind of show that only people in the stadium could enjoy (and most of them athletes with a four year thirst created by no nights outs in almost half a decade). This was the kind of show that if any other country had put on we’d be mocking them forever. The London Games, a picture of sporting theatre and achievement, deserved better.

But beyond whether you like acres of blokey Dad rock and clips of Freddie Mercury (and a bit of Jessie J looking like she was pleading with us to look at her) or not, somebody might have reminded the planners about what the 2012 Olympics had hammered home on every one of its spectacular days: that this was the Games where women excelled and proved that sport can be gripping whether its men or women taking part.

When it came to the last night, the closing ceremony was stumbling back to the idea that women are to gawp at. When the flag-bearers for each country came on, they were escorted by pretty, smiling (and to be fair they must have trained hard to smile for so long) women in tight red leather jackets and high heels. Now, what’s not to like about dressing up nice for a party, where what you want, feel good looking good in leather jackets and heels. It’s not that they should have been in sensible plimsolls and pullovers, and it’s not that women only wear high heels in life because they think men’ll like it. It’s just not immediately clear why only women could stride in next to the medalists. Maybe somebody can explain.

Then came the tradition of the men’s marathon victory ceremony being reserved for the last night party, a nice trailback to Pheidippides. Just a few years on, just a few, you’d think both marathon winners could find a way onto the final podium without harming tradition. The Ugandan national anthem played for Stephen Kiprotich as the walking army of red leather space cadet fantasies stood behind, cheek muscles starting to ache from the Joker smiles. A gameshow backdrop, it was like Kiprotich had been called down from the audience on The Price Is Right. The winner of the women’s marathon Tiki Gelana should have been on the stage to be celebrated too. Looking on she might have been glad to have been left out.

Later, instead of the Bowie rumours coming true, we got snippets of his music (nothing from Labryinth, sadly) and moving sea-crates containing stick thin supermodels. When the screens were pulled back, they pouted as only they can. For all London’s importance in the world of fashion, there will be many puzzled over why we needed to be reminded of a collection of women annually paid sums obliterating the salaries of gold-winning athletes, rowers and cyclists for wearing clothes and looking sultry.

The Spice Girls then returned, underlining how we skillfully marketed male-manufactured girl power to the world. And by the time Eric Idle came on for us to all go ‘ooooh – he said shit in front of everyone’, there was a fresh cast of lovelies in angel costumes on hand. 

All this in the stadium where Jessica Ennis had captured the real magnificence of the Games. Britain did it right on the field of play, but last night, no no no no no….

9 Comments on Get your medals out

  1. OK so I meet your ‘in the stadium’ criteria, but it was fantastic. And one definitely for Adrian Burley to get het up about! The idea that people from every nation on earth made up the Union flag put a big smile on my face.

    A really simple, but incredibly powerful metaphor for the diversity of the UK. I loved it.

  2. Richard Osley // August 13, 2012 at 5:56 pm //

    Thanks Sarah: I hope you didn’t pay £1,500 for the tickets… Now, I know you are forthright about equality issues, but your comments don’t really say much about the point of the post, how women’s sporting achievement – a key element of the Olympics – had been lost. Maybe those vehicles with the banners should have revealed Jess Ennis, not Kate Moss.

  3. Joel Taylor // August 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm //

    The occasion was dire. I keep reading the reviews in the papers and can only assume critics were giddy from the games, the senses still dulled by glorious achievement.

    For the first section of the closing ceremony the best two performances were by dead singers; Jessie J performed gallantly with Queen who at least know how to fill a stadium whether you like their music or not and The Who were good but far too late.

    Otherwise, it was painful. Emeli Sande might be a terrific singer but she started the show woefully out of tune. Ray Davies was a sad shadow of the musician he once was and Liam Gallagher was stunningly poor. If he’d sung Wonderwall like that originally, Oasis would have sunk without a trace.

    And why did anyone think we’d want to see Kate Moss et al parading up and down in designer gear, displaying their skinny, in-need-of-a-good-Sunday-roast, frames while the athletes were kept kettled in the dark?

    The few saving graces – such as the arrival of the athletes, the genuine spectacle of the dancers with Darcey Bussell, the light show and fireworks – were sadly overshadowed.

    Oh, the horror of it all.

    • Scrumpy Jack from Somerset! // August 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm //

      Agree with quite a few of the comments on this site!

      Compared to everything else, the grand finale was tacky, sexist, tasteless and on the whole an embarassment!!!

      I wish i’d stayed in Somerset!

      Scrumpy Jack

  4. Hi,
    I thought that the Closing Ceremony was really disappointing, and I thought it was a real shame that they decided to trot out the Spice Girls and a group of supermodels, after all the displays of healthy, talented female athletes that we’ve watched over the last 2 weeks. My only thing is that the mens marathon medal ceremony is held during the closing ceremony because it happens on the morning of the last day, and there isn’t the possibility of doing it in the stadium before it gets ready for the closing ceremony – the womens marathon happens a couple of days earlier, meaning the medalists get their ceremony in the stadium. That is why its done this way round, and become part of the tradition of the closing. Why they couldn’t move the mens marathon, I do not know, however.

    As for the Eric Idle bit, it really felt like it was part of the Opening Ceremony that got cut because of the time constraints!

  5. Keith Moffitt // August 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm //

    This is one of thoses not totally infrequent occasions when Sarah and I agree.

    What I’m going to say is about the music, and you make some good points about women getting a bum deal in this closing ceremony for Olympics when again and again they showed us how it should be done.

    I wasn’t in the stadium but in my living room with a few friends, a nice big screen, the volume turned up high and a bottle or two of wine. Like all the best parties for a mixed aged group there were moments when the oldies were saying “who are all these new groups, I’ve never heard of them”, while the young’uns were saying “why do they keep digging up these has-beens?”. And just as at the best parties, you simply had to suspend your critical faculties now and again, turn down the cringe-meter and just enjoy it.

    The evidence that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t was summed up for me by reading two conflicting reviews in the press this morning – one (sorry, excuse my poetic licence here) virtually bemoaning the fact that The Beatles hadn’t been reunited specially to perform, and the other heaving a sigh of relief that Macca (who along with Ringo would have been the only one not to have been raised from the dead to perform) hadn’t been inflicted on us again. Sometimes, you just can’t win.

    • Scrumpy Jack's off to Rio in search of a ticket! // August 14, 2012 at 9:35 am //

      On this occasion I think the reaction might have had more to do with the one or two bottles of wine, Keith!

      Anyway, I’m off just off to board a plane to pastures new, Rio!

      You see folks, I’ve worked out if I arrive in plenty of time I might just be able to get a ticket to the big event, but I’m not getting my hopes up, not this time anyway!

      Got a plane to catch!

      Scrumpy Jack

  6. con-sidekick // August 14, 2012 at 4:54 am //

    ‘its basically two weeks of a school sports day with a few fireworks and Clare Balding. 10 billion could have done so much, it really could have changed the fate of our NHS and education system.

    People keep banging on about a legacy, David Cameron chimed in saying he will invest in more school sports making them competitive. how about before we give these schools more balls, nets, hoops, and time in the swimming pool we give them text books, more ICT equipment and more importantly more teachers. lets make sure EVERY child can read and write by the time they leave school. lets make sure they are equipped for the real world, where the vast majority don’t become footballers, wags, glamor models, singers or Olympic champions. now that would be a real legacy! lets take the next 10 billion and build and staff 20 of the worlds greatest schools.’

    • Scrumpy Jack from Somerset! // September 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm //

      ……. and still searching for that ticket in Rio!!!!

      I’ve now been told to give up the day job, as it may be the only way!


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